It happens all the time

from Monday, March24th of the year2008.

Did everybody see this crazy article? It’s about a boy in Fayetteville, Arkansas, who is the target of repeated bullying. What’s interesting about the article is, bully4.jpgfirst of all, I seriously wonder what having an article printed in the Times can do about it “” maybe the idea is to shame the school district into being more proactive in preventing it? Wildly, the Times also has a slide show of this boy’s bruises, which he and his parents documented and date stamped. There is also a really, really weird editorial moment by Dan Barry, the author. Check out this paragraph and paragraph fragment:

In ninth grade, a couple of the same boys started a Facebook page called “Every One That Hates Billy Wolfe.” It featured a photograph of Billy’s face superimposed over a likeness of Peter Pan, and provided this description of its purpose: “There is no reason anyone should like billy he’s a little bitch. And a homosexual that NO ONE LIKES.”

Heh-heh.

Heh-heh? What? What’s that doing in there. I don’t get the position of that interjection. Is he parodying the oppressor? That reminds me of an article in 2001 that my then-roommate and I were obsessed with, an article that came out in December, 2001, about Afghanistan:

Last week, as the season’s first snowflakes were whipped by the wind, some wondered whether hunger or cold would be first to claim their children. “Look at my boy, he has nothing on his bones,” said Abdul Hussain, holding a feverish 2-year-old in his arms in Shebertoo. The child, wearing a sweater and vest but no shoes, was making faint, pitiful sounds: eh, eh. His legs were as thin as saplings. “He becomes weaker every day,” the father said. “Maybe I have brought him home to die.”

How wild is that “eh, eh.” I wonder if they tried the paragraph without it and then put it back in for Ethnic Flavor? Totally weird.

Anyway, Billy Wolfe, poor thing! I hope this article does something for somebody somewhere. Maybe the next time some kid gets teased he can say, I’ma make the Times do an exposé. Here is my little reaction, basically a Steve Reich homage and an excuse to use my new zither sample library:

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(I took the audio from the Times here).

11 Comments

  • I was upset by the “heh-heh” as well and wonder if possibly the quotation marks were misplaced and should have included the heh-heh as part of the facebook quote. In any event, my stomach gets tied up in knots whenever young gay kids are bullied — or worse.

  • or perhaps I should just say whenever kids are bullied, since there is no suggestion in the article that this young man is gay.

  • Actually, there have been a fair number of lawsuits around the country on behalf of teenagers — mainly boys — subjected to anti-gay harassment at school, some of which have been resolved by imposing liability on school administrators for their refusal to take effective measures to protect the kids who are in their care. Based on Dan Barry’s article, it sounds to me as if Billy Wolfe may have a good legal claim against the Fayetteville school administrators. And the possibility of such liability is supposed to be the spur to the administrators to take action…

  • Funny you should pick up on that. I did too. I thought it referred back to an earlier moment in the article:
    “It began years ago when a boy called the house and asked Billy if he wanted to buy a certain sex toy, heh-heh. Billy told his mother, who informed the boy’s mother. ”
    But I don’t think it works, in any context. It certainly pulled me up short.

  • The “heh-heh” echoes an earlier one in the article, and is therefore not so weird:

    “It began years ago when a boy called the house and asked Billy if he wanted to buy a certain sex toy, heh-heh.”

    The writing, I think, unequivocally condemns the bullies.

    But the “eh-eh” in the Afghanistan article is jarring. It’s like a print article trying to be NPR.

  • I think Valerie is right – the second heh-heh is an ironic shadow of the first. But it is at best clumsy, and in a story this sad irony is intrusive.

  • Gotta say, reading it here was jarring for me, too. But reading the entire Times story, which included the first “heh heh” mentioned in the above comments put it more clearly into context.

    I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “intrusive.” Unnecessary, perhaps.

    Also, interesting that a number of us (myself included) immediately presumed Billy was gay. Interesting, too, that the author probably anticipated this and so included the bit about Billy liking girls.

  • Horrifying incident, all the more so because it is more and more common. Here I was thinking that metrosexual had finally become the norm. . .
    It terrifies me that the “markers” that identify one as different are SO bound up in a ridiculously narrow understanding of gender. As if “liking girls” could protect this dear young man. . .

    and, of course 🙂 your musical homage/reaction was quite moving–giving voice to the voiceless–where is that Spivak blog when you need it?

  • Apropos of bullying, last night’s HBO program, “Autism: The Musical”, was heartrending. I’m sure it will be repeated often.

  • Just found your blog after listening to Mothertongue – Section 2, on the cover of Wire this month. Beautiful piece.

    But what sad story you report here.

  • I’ve also read this article, and the “heh-heh” was quite offensive to me as well.

    But then I wondered why the article was even published. Although terribly heartbreaking, this was hardly news.